Week one of a new format is always an interesting and surprising time, when the brewers of the multiverse break out their best ideas (except the ones hording those ideas for the Pro Tour, of course) and try out off-the-wall strategies in an effort to start the new season off right. In Legacy, this almost never happens. Even when a set like Innistrad – filled to the brim with new and exciting cards for Eternal players – is released, it often takes some time for the changes to make their way into the Legacy scene, and rarely do we have a set that flips things on their head immediately (KTK is a prominent recent exception to this rule).
This weekend, on the other hand, was the birth of a new Legacy for an entirely different reason. Though it did coincide with the release of Battle for Zendikar, the more important change to the format was the banning of Dig Through Time, and the release of Black Vise into the wild. For more in-depth discussion of those changes, I hope you will (or have) check out the podcast Jon Corpora and I put together last week.
Of course, the two of us were spot on in our analysis of the changes the format would undergo, how could we not be, with as much Charisma and rapier wit as we possess? Note the tongue firmly placed in my cheek.
This weekend's Star City Premiere Invitational Qualifier in Indianapolis was the first opportunity for players to delve into this Dig-less format, and they did not disappoint in their creativity.
Taking down the event was perhaps the most obvious of new decks, in Shardless Sultai. As the midrange tempo deck with the best card advantage engine outside Dig, the deck hoping to cascade into Ancestral Vision seemed like one of the better old decks to return to. It isn't particularly surprising to see the deck return to the spotlight once the rest of the blue decks lost their primary way to keep up with the cards from Vision. In the finals, Shardless Sultai defeated the other "no duh" deck making its (nearly) triumphant return to Legacy, in Sneak and Show.
Now that the incentive to play the widely-regarded-as-strictly-superior Omni-Tell deck is vanished, stock in Sneak Attack and Griselbrand has risen greatly. This deck still has all the issues it had a few months ago – a tendency to lose to itself when you can't find a creature to Sneak, a weakness to Ensnaring Bridge, etc. – but it remains one of the most powerful decks in Legacy. The only reason it fell off the radar in the first place was that Omni-Tell solved most of the problems the UR deck had, and was also extremely difficult for Sneak and Show to beat. With the return to normalcy, we return to a format where Sneak and Show can once again make me want to die.
Of course, neither of these decks is particularly revolutionary, but fear not as the creativity is yet to come. We move down the standings and find a deck attempting to find the niche left behind by Omni-Tell, in Joseph Herrera's Eureka-Tell list:
This deck takes the "Sneak" in Sneak and Show, and trades it in for Legends combo build-around Eureka. The green sorcery is essentially the turbo-charged version of Show and Tell, allowing each player to put as many permanents (including Planeswalkers, unlike S&T) into play from hand as they so choose. The intention here is that you'd put a combination of Omniscience, Emrakul, Griselbrand, and Ugin into play; this should allow you to go over over the top of whatever your opponent could muster. In a bind, you have sideboard access to Ashen Rider (for pesky colorless permanents like Ensnaring Bridge), Carpet of Flowers (nice Dazes, Delver), and a personal favorite of mine in Xantid Swarm (Counter-wall a problem? Cover them in BEES). These green options are an interesting diversion from the classic "Red Blasts / Pyroclasm / Young Pyromancer" sideboard strategy of the Omni-Tell and Sneak and Show decks, but whether the green strategy has the potency to compete at the same level as the nearly mono-blue Omni-Tell is yet to be determined. While it does have twice the number of effective business spells, it also has a significantly larger number of big, dumb blanks. One strength of Omni-Tell was being nearly devoid of this type of bad draw.
All told, this deck feels a lot more like a quirky variant version of Sneak and Show than a watered-down version of Omni-Tell, which doesn't bode very well for Eureka. Of course, the scarcity of the marquee spell doesn't help things much. While we don't typically factor price of individual cards into the analysis of a deck, the fact is you'll have a tough time actually coming up with four copies of the Legends rare. They just aren't particularly easy to come by, regardless of the price.
Short aside: In the early-90s I was a naïve pre-teen playing tournaments at a small mom-and-pop storefront at a local dive mall. I've talked about this place before, but unbeknownst to my pre-pubescent self, it was a testing ground of Team Sped, one of the more prominent pro teams of the day. One weekend, I was playing in a local Teams tournament (a structure that was a little more common back then than it is now). Each team was two players – one person playing "Type 2" (better known as Standard), and one playing "Type 1" (better known as Vintage). The teams were seated staggered, like a 3v3 draft rather than a two-headed-giant match, and took turns individually. One teammate took a turn, then the opponent to the left, then the second teammate, etc. As a small child, neither myself nor my teammate had any kind of business playing Vintage, but our pair of Zoo/Burn decks got us through the first round unscathed.
In the second round, we were paired against a team of older guys, a pairing of TCGplayer's own Dennis "Sped" Spiegel and Joe Weber (once the highest rated Limited player in the world, now an Arizona LGS owner). Joe and Sped were playing a fun combo strategy. They won the die roll, and could choose which of the pair would play first. Joe (the Type 1 deck) started the match, and led with land, Black Lotus, Demonic Tutor, Sol Ring, Mox, Eureka. We quickly learned that his deck was hellbent on resolving Eureka on turn one no matter what. The entire deck revolved around the resolution of that spell. It had no plan B. Thinking how great this was for our creature-based decks, my partner and I began to put our Kird Apes and Jackal Pups into play. Sped chuckled as he put Craw Giant, Scaled Wurm, Shivan Dragon, Tolarian Serpent, Verdant Force, Mahamoti Djinn, and Lord of the Pit onto the board. Sped's deck was a pile of 60 enormous creatures. It had no lands. Joe would play first, resolve Eureka, and Sped would put his hand into play. On Sped's turn, he would attack and kill one of the opponents. On his next turn, he'd attack and kill the other opponent. They lost in the finals to Jamie Parke and a teammate - both piloting Prosperity / Cadaverous Bloom Combo. It was a dumb format.
There were two Goblins decks in the Top 8 of this weekend's event.
Let that sink in for a second.
They both lost in the first elimination round, but the mere existence of them both in the Top 8 is enough to get a double take from me. One of the lists, Brad Campbell's sixth place finish, is fairly stock for what we'd imagine a Goblin deck to look like today. It has all the Goblin Lackey / Goblin Matron / Goblin Piledriver / Goblin Ringleader shenanigans we've come to expect from the tribe of little green men.
It does contain a pair of Ashen Rider with no particular way to put them on the battlefield, perhaps in an attempt to have some kind of game against Show and Tell strategies beyond Red Blasts and Thalia. It feels to me like this tech is somewhat dated, given the metagame changes I'd expect from a Dig ban, but I wouldn't have shown up to an event with Goblins anyway, so what do I know.
The other Goblins deck...sigh. Just take a look for yourself.
Either Hunter Briggs is trolling us all pretty incredibly, or he has some kind of leg up on the rest of the format in a way I just never could have predicted. I actually had to double check to be sure this wasn't the guy that piloted Lantern Prison in the GP a few weeks ago, just to be sure we aren't all being put to shame by our lack of creativity. Fortunately it isn't the same guy, and I can sleep tonight.
Where do we even start here? There's no Goblin Lackey – widely regarded as the 'payoff' for running the tribe to begin with. Instead, we have a set of Moggcatchers. Guys, I just don't know. This is a variation on the Dragon Stompy theme of old, I have to assume, but it just goes way over my head as a deckbuilder. We are familiar with the idea of trying to pair Sol Lands like Ancient Tomb with Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere, and forcing Blood Moon down the opponent's throat via Chrome Mox, Simian Spirit Guide, and the aforementioned lands, but I don't know if I've ever seen it paired with this particular kind of Goblin shell. It's actually pretty interesting to me – I like the idea of locking an opponent under a Blood Moon and then using Kiki-Jiki and Goblin Settler to off any non-Mountains they happen to find. Oh who am I kidding, I'm a big fan of any kind of Kiki-Jiki hijinks.
This is just a really sweet deck that probably has an insane matchup against a handful of decks in Legacy but loses a ton of games to the amalgamation of underpowered cards in its shell when you don't land lock pieces properly, or when the opponent manages to do something broken through the pieces you do find. I would imagine that in this particular Top 8, where a pair of Show and Tell decks advanced to the semifinals, there was a critical mass of things the Goblin Stompy deck didn't want to see on the other side of the table. It's tough to compete with a three-mana Emrakul when you're trying to cast a four mana 2/2 Goblin that brings along a Shock.
True to expectations, this Top 8 had a good representation of the best decks prior to the Upheaval of Legacy caused by the introduction of Delve draw spells into its ranks. Delver is good again, Shardless is good again, Sneak and Show is good again, and a bunch of decks that were on the fringes are still pretty solid choices. Also as expected, there were a total of ZERO cards from Battle for Zendikar in the Top 8 of this event. It's probably worth noting the distinct lack of Black Vise in the winning decks as well, including the 25th place Burn list (highest placing of that deck). If those cards are going to make any waves in Legacy, the players have not yet figured out the best way to take advantage. I wouldn't hold your breath.
Goblins. Sheesh. It's a brave new (old) world out there.